We’re giving young people on the autism spectrum an insight into the world of work.
Our General Manager of Service Operations, Ed Jakeman, came up with the idea after watching a TV documentary highlighting problems autistic people have finding jobs.
“Everyone can do a job of some description,” said Ed. “It’s about finding the right one. Autistic people are often very good at solving puzzles and programming, and I thought they could do our work really well.”
Ed contacted Georgia McLaren in our Work Ready team. She then organised a day with the National Autistic Society for Ed and other volunteers from Technology, Service & Operations to advise on support we needed to put in place.
The result? Two pilots in Colombo House, in London, for four candidates. And a third pilot for two young people in Oswestry, starts next month.
Fraser Macleod, who works in Cisco Service Operations but also volunteers as a mentor to autistic adults, took the lead in London.
He said: “I sent them a link to a YouTube video of us in the office so they knew who we were when we met. And we filmed the walk from the underground station to our front door, so they’d feel comfortable getting here.”
We also provided a schedule of what they’d be doing during their two weeks with us.
Ed said: “They took everything in their stride. The main learning curve was for us. Any preconceptions we had were blown away.”
Our candidates received certificates at the end of their placements. But they took away much more, after getting to grips with configuring services, troubleshooting and prioritising work stacks.
Fraser said: “You could see their confidence grow daily as they came out of their shells. One even said he wished it could have lasted longer.”
We’re now looking at holding more placements – as well as the possibility of short-term contracts.
Georgia said: “It was great upskilling Ed and his team with our work placements programme so they can support even more young people in the future.
“We’d love more people to get involved, or use our guidance for bringing a friend or family member in for work experience.”